Silicon Valley looks to China for successful app concepts – report

By Wei Sheng
2 min read
The China Internet Report 2019 being released at the RISE Conference in Hong Kong on July 10 (Image credit: TechNode/Jiayi Shi)

Global technology firms are increasingly replicating successful concepts from Chinese peers like super apps and short video platforms, according to a new report from the South China Morning Post, Abacus, and Proof of Capital.

Why it matters: China’s tech sector has long held a copycat reputation, especially when it comes to Silicon Valley products, but it now appears that the situation is reversing. Companies including Facebook and Amazon are also learning from original ideas that have been proved successful in China, a country with 829 million internet users, according to the China Internet Report 2019 released at the RISE Conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

“At the South China Morning Post, when we write stories [about Chinese tech companies], sometimes we still use terms like China’s Uber, China’s Twitter, China’s Facebook, China’s Google. And that really reflects a trend, about 10 to 15 years ago, when Chinese companies copied from the US. But we are seeing the reverse happening.”

—Chua Kong Ho, a technology editor at the South China Morning Post, speaking at RISE on Wednesday.

Details: Global tech companies are now replicating successful concepts from their Chinese counterparts, from the super app to the short video.

  • Apps that provide one-stop services from instant messages to ride-hailing and money transfers dominate China’s online landscape. These include Tencent’s WeChat, Alibaba’s Alipay, and Meituan. The idea of super apps has inspired Facebook’s standalone messaging app, Japan’s instant message app Line, and Indonesia’s Go-Jek, said the report.
  • China’s online shopping apps, including Alibaba’s Taobao, Pinduoduo, and Mogu, have pioneered concepts such as group buying and live-streaming. The report said US e-commerce giant Amazon also launched in February Amazon Live which features live-streamed video of hosts showcasing products, which viewers can then buy directly.
  • TikTok, the short video app developed by Chinese company ByteDance, has been the most downloaded app on the iOS App Store for five consecutive quarters. In November 2018, Facebook launched Lasso, its short video app designed to compete with TikTok, said the report.

Context: Innovations in terms of features have helped Chinese tech firms to thrive in recent decades, but the country’s tech industry still heavily relies on overseas technology, said the report.

  • For instance, the global smartphone market shrunk 4% in 2018 compared with the year before, but Chinese smartphone vendors are finding a way to grow their market share by pioneering new features such as Vivo’s notch-free pop-up selfie cameras and Xiaomi’s under-display selfie cameras, according to the report.
  • However, the US blacklisting of Huawei revealed Chinese tech firms’ reliance on overseas technology, said the report. After being placed on a trade blacklist by the Trump administration in mid-May, Huawei is preparing for a international smartphone shipments to fall by around to between 40 million and 60 million units, according to Bloomberg.